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Episode 1566

No Cap, No Lie

We take our voices for granted, but it’s truly miraculous that we communicate complex thoughts simply by moving our mouths while exhaling. A fascinating new book reveals the science, history, and linguistics involved in human speech. And...

Making the Easy Hard

Julia in Norfolk, Virginia, wants a verb that denotes the act of making something simple unnecessarily complicated, particularly in a work setting. Some possibilities: complexify, befoul, bemuddle, and embrangle. This is part of a complete episode.


Byron from Norfolk, Virginia, wonders about the term goldbrick. If gold is valuable, then why would goldbrick refer to someone who’s a malingerer or otherwise dead weight? The answer has to do with swindlers who painted worthless bricks and...

Potable Pronunciation

How do you pronounce the word potable, which means drinkable? A woman in the Navy stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, says most of her fellow sailors pronounce it with a short o, but she pronounces it with a long o. The word derives from Latin potare...

Smarmy Smarm

Greg, calling from Norfolk, Virginia, says that when he uses the word smarmy, some people seem not to know it. What does it mean? Where does it come from? Is it even a real word? It’s related to an old verb meaning to smear or be-daub. It’s kind of...

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